Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

THE CROTON LAKE MURDER

The Final Show

By 1912, in the state of New York, 82 people had already executed by means of the electric chair. Brought to reality through the efforts of an eccentric Buffalo dentist named Dr. Alfred Southwick, the electric chair was considered a major scientific advancement and a humane, "painless" way to execute prisoners. Of course, no one really knew that for sure, but it was theorized that the electrical impulses traveled to the brain faster than the nerves carrying the pain signal and therefore, the victim died before the pain hit. The public was assured of this concept by the famous inventor Thomas Edison and, therefore, felt comfortable with the application of the new technology. Thanks to the electric chair, juries could send convicted murderers to their deaths confident they were compassionate people.

Even though four of the men in the Mary Hall murder were unaware a murder had taken place on the second floor of the farmhouse while they were downstairs, they were equally guilty under the "felony murder" section of New York State Penal Code. The section still exists today, although the Croton Lake Murder is the one and only instance it was ever used to execute six men for a single murder.

The day after the execution, a New York City undertaker claimed the bodies. He transported them back to his funeral parlor where he put the bodies on display and charged people admission to see them. The police department later convinced the undertaker to close the show. Cali, Zanza and the others were buried in an unknown location somewhere in Brooklyn. Their journey, from the barren hills of Sicily to the promised land of dreams, was over.

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